Travellers arriving in Canada are criticizing the government for a lack of screening and information as they land at airports from abroad.
On Friday, federal public-health officials advised everyone arriving from outside the country to self-isolate for 14 days no matter where they had visited. However, on Saturday, travellers arriving in Canada said there was no information about self-isolation posted and people found themselves crowded into customs areas despite cautions about the need for social distancing.
“No questions at customs about our stay, no information about the virus, no screening done. No one told us about self-monitoring,” Peggy Sweeney wrote on Twitter. She said she arrived at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport from Mexico.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told CTV News Sunday morning that additional screening measures were in the “process” of being put in place and that the number of airports accepting international flights would be reduced. Those measures were announced by his government on Friday and he did not explain why it hadn’t already been fully implemented.
Public Security and Canada Border Services Agency officials “are bringing in new measures right now,” he said.
Mr. Trudeau said passengers coming back from vacations in places such as the Caribbean were subject to “different protocols” because they were “not coming back from a place of concern.”
On Saturday, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne advised all Canadians to return home by commercial means “while they remain available.”
Nine hours after that call to come home, Glen Canning said customs at Pearson airport only had six officers working, leading to long lines and crowding – something health officials have warned against.
“I’ve been in the Canada customs line at Pearson for over an hour along with hundreds of people. Six agents on duty, zero screening, no masks, no sanitizer in site,” Mr. Canning wrote on Twitter. “This is as unsafe as it can get.”
Ottawa has advised people to self-isolate for 14 days once they return to Canada but hasn’t yet made that mandatory. Mr. Trudeau said the government is considering that option as a next step. He also defended his government’s decision not to close the borders but said “we’re not taking anything off the table.”
He is meeting with his cabinet Sunday to discuss Canada’s response to the new coronavirus pandemic.